Hard fists, gentle spirit marked JW Luttrell

Published 11:54 pm Tuesday, August 10, 2021

By Ricky Swindle

Muffler Shop Musings

Howdy, friends!

The name JW Luttrell brings about drastic differences according to who hears it. To a friend, it brings a smile.

If you were his friend, you could aggravate and pick on him to no end. He was gullible and believed most anything a friend would tell him.

He was the butt of many jokes, and he enjoyed his friends taking humor shots at him. He was the most awful joke teller you ever heard. He would forget certain parts or put the punchline in the wrong place but listening to him try to tell it was hilarious in itself.

One of the funniest things I ever heard played on him was by the late Royce Durham. JW and Royce grew up together and JW thought the world of him.

Royce convinced him that a UFO had crashed outside of town and Sheriff Bryan had the Martians locked up in jail and would let you see them if you went to the jailhouse and asked.

Yes, he did. He went to the jail and asked the Sheriff about the aliens. When the Sheriff laughed and asked who told him that, JW winced and said “that ded dam devil Royce done got me again!”

If you crossed him up though, that name meant trouble for you. He feared nothing or no one. He was a southpaw who possessed a left hand that was harder than a fireplace brick and faster than smokestack lightning.

If he bit his lower lip and uttered the words “I’ll knock your ded dam brain out,” then it was on. His wrath was quick and fast as he finished every opponent swiftly. He did not mess around when it came to a scrap, he was all business.

He enjoyed getting along with people, but he also enjoyed not getting along with folks either. Either way was fine with him, the choice was strictly up to you.

Bar bouncers would approach him with a handshake and pat on the back when he entered the watering holes. The dudes who thought they were tough would greet him with their hats in their hands.

The ones over the years that tried him out only attempted it once. Some folks just have to see for themselves, and he was more than happy to oblige their mistake in judgement.

There were some who did not like him, but you better believe they respected him or kept their mouth shut anyway.

He was never a bully though, he was a bully tamer. For the most part, he had a calm and friendly demeanor, always well dressed and caring about his appearance. He was a very polite man, smiling always and speaking in a low tone unless he was agitated.

JW was also a fine musician, singer and songwriter and he was a great fan of Merle Haggard. Dan Turpin drove Merle’s bus back in the 80’s and he arranged the opportunity for JW and me to meet The Hag and spend some time with him at the Ford Center in Oxford a few years back.

JW was the proudest man on Earth that day as Merle sat down and posed for him in the backseat of his old police car.   

I was sitting with him at the First Stop in Crowder back in ‘04. They were having a fish fry that coming Thursday and he told me he had a Masonic Lodge meeting that night. I asked him what’s to that Masonic thing anyway and he grinned real big telling me I’ll get you a petition because all you have to do is ask.

The Masonic Lodge is about freewill. A Mason cannot ask a person to join, it is against the rules. But if someone asks you and you think they are a qualified candidate then you submit their petition.

I had never thought about the Lodge until I found out he was a member. He is the reason I joined and being a Master Mason and Shriner has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever been a part of.

In ‘06 we joined The Shriners together. It was a blast being run through the mill with the hazing, but I had to keep pointing out to the Shriner brothers at The Wahabi Temple in Jackson that this brother is different.

I had to stay right with him and remind him that they’re just messing with us like they do all the guys that come through. “Now quit biting your lip and don’t knock nobody out or they’ll kick us out of here,” I told him.

They had us painted up like clowns and put us marching in a parade in Canton. The Shriner van would lag behind the floats then take back off catching up and leaving all us clowns running up those hills trying to keep up.

That third time JW grabbed the back door and said “C’mon, Ricky” and we jumped in the van.

The driver said, “You boys got to get out and march with the others.”

JW, biting his lip and focused those steel blue eyes right on that good fellow and said, “We’ll put you out and let you run a little while big boy.” Well, we rode the rest of the day. I laughed until I was squalling tears big as quarters.

This paper could not hold all the stories that I could tell about my friend. I’d wager several editions of this publication would be needed for all the folks around here to tell their JW Luttrell stories because he touched many lives and mostly in a positive way.

There is one thing that every friend will repeat is that if JW was your friend, he was a loyal friend. He treasured his friends no matter what walk of life they came from. He didn’t like snooty people and one hard glance from him would delete all the snoot from their noses.

His health started declining a few years ago, but he was still much of a man.

His son James let me know that he was gone the other day. My heart sank. To this ole boy, JW was a living legend, and that day was the end of an era in my mind.

I’m going to miss JW coming by the shop and me taking jabs at him. It was always so funny to punch at him and watch him draw up in that textbook boxer stance and laugh and say “you ded dam little devil, you almost got me.”

Rest in peace my friend and brother James William Luttrell, you sure made a big impression on me, and my life was better just by having you as a friend. I will never forget you.

Maybe the Good Lord needs a bouncer at the Pearly Gates. He’ll be a dandy one to have.